I have a love affair with playas. We have several major dry lake beds in northern Nevada and numerous minor ones. They are the desert’s seas and oceans. They can be explored and charted finding springs, ghost towns/mines, unique weather, and unique geology along their shores. Winnemucca Lake playa has captivated me as I whizzed past it from either the driver’s or passenger’s position in a car to and from the Black Rock Desert. The Nightingale Mountains in the glow of sunset were magical. With its close proximity to Reno and quality terrain to ride I have made it a destination for solo and group adventures.
On a group ride we visited the abandoned tungsten mine on the east side of the playa. The reaction from my fellow tourists was this relic seemed best for a movie set for something out of this world. I agree that much of Nevada seems out of this world. Behind the mine is a canyon with a dry stream wash complete with a 4X4 road. My plan was to return on a mountain bike to explore the canyon.
My research on the area led me to The Fly Syndicate blog (and here) with outstanding photos and description of the area. A more technical report of the mine can be found at Western Mining History. When trying to trace a route through the Selenite Mountains I could only be hopeful that the roads went through because there was no obvious route.
Brandon and I started our loop around the south end of the lake by visiting the prominent tufa formations. But we quickly made our way to Valley Rd and around to Coyote Canyon. I was eager to share this route with a new tourist. I pointed out several box canyons, a formation I call “the Pyramids”, and other roads to explore.
We made quick time to the MGL tungsten mill foundation then started up the canyon. We encountered more mining relics but I was most most intrigued by the miniature rail system for the long gone ore carts. It is easy to be tempted to enter an abandoned hard rock mine but “stay out, stay alive” is a good slogan to follow.
We followed the 4X4 trail complete with jeep and moto tracks until it ended in a spring. There is always a surprising amount of water in the desert. Or any water is surprising in the desert. The spring was barely flowing but enough to attract animals. You could collect water here if you dug a small pool. Unfortunately we could not find a route from here. My GPS showed some tracks a less than a mile away but a mile through this terrain was going to be difficult.
We descended to a moto singletrack that looked hopeful. After a long steep hike-a-bike we topped out above the Nightingale Mining District. I had a good idea of where we were and my plan was to return via Coyote Canyon. I had previously ridden this with Dean Magnuson so I was confident in the route. We had a quick lunch of prosciutto, brie, arugula, fig spread sandwiches before our return to the car.
Exploring the mining relics was a great adventure. Unfortunately the hike-a-bike sections were very difficult. It was very eye-opening to see how Coyote Canyon connects to Kumiva Valley and in my opinion becomes a great off road connector for travel to the Black Rock Desert.